17 July 2004
What follows is a continuation of the discussion commenced (i.e. continued) with Civilization and Savagery; developed further in the sequel, Beyond Civilization or The Killer Meme; and further elaborated in The Tribal Ideal.
The growing tip of the root fiber continues to grope its way forward.1 Where I have "arrived," so far, is at ten provisional "convictions," inasmuch as they are my perceptions "from where I stand" to date, right here, right now:
- The temporal scope of human occupancy on planet Earth is enormously more vast than is given credit by the cultural memes2 which define the prevailing contemporary human culture, civilization. Beings of genus Homo have resided on this planet for the past three thousand thousand years. Civilization is a recent social experiment which had its inception approximately ten thousand years ago,3 during which time it has demonstrated itself repeatedly and consistently to be unworkable.
- Civilization is unworkable because it is a hierarchical social system which maintains its "pharoahs" in lavish, opulent abundance, at the cost of maintaining everyone else in poverty and misery – who actually perform the toil of expanding, defending, and maintaining civilization, and erecting "pyramids" for the "pharoahs." Civilization is a compulsory system of masters and slaves, which as a result is inherently unstable and unsustainable, and carries within it the seeds of its own inevitable destruction. The overarching civilization in occupancy of planet Earth right now threatens to destroy not only itself, but the life-sustainability of the entire planet as well. This is the essence of what I have been calling the "human predicament."
- Every civilized religion is a recent byproduct of the failed experiment, civilization, having arisen no earlier than 34 hundred years ago. Every civilized religion justifies, and claims to offer a means of dealing with civilization's unacknowledged manifold failures, and teaches its adherents instead that humanity is flawed, cursed, benighted by sin, corruption, and a fundamentally "evil" nature. Every civilized religion teaches in effect that the gods who created all beings and things, singularly botched their creation of humanity, and for this reason we are in desperate need of "salvation," in one form or another, which here or hereafter is the only possible remedy for the inherent misery and curse of being human.4
- Like all social species, humans have evolved, over the millions of years of our residency here, a pattern of social conduct and interaction that works very well wherever it is encountered undisturbed by civilization. That pattern is the tribe; which works for humans as well as the school works for fish, the pod works for whales and dolphins, the colony works for bees, ants, and termites, the flock works for birds, the herd works for cattle, the pack works for wolves, and the pride works for lions. Like the human tribe, all these social patterns for various species have evolved over the course of millions of years, and have been honed by the pressures of natural selection to a keen and effective edge.5
- The human predicament – which threatens human survival on this planet, because it threatens the life-sustainability of the entire planet upon which human survival depends – consists of our failure so far to move beyond the unworkable and self-destructive pattern of civilization, and into a "post-civilized" pattern that works as effectively as its "pre-civilized" tribal prototype. The presence of civilization on planet Earth represents an obstacle to human progress just as surely as a fallen tree across the road, or an intervening river, or a chasm, or an ocean, may pose an obstacle to anyone with the intent of moving from "here" to "there" under any imaginable circumstances. Either the obstacle is overcome, or somehow circumvented or otherwise dealt with, or there is no way to get "there" from "here." For us, the latter eventuality means that Homo sapiens sapiens will soon no longer reside upon planet Earth.
- All this is not to demonize civilization, or to cast away all its accomplishments, discoveries, and inventions. The perception that civilization as a whole doesn't work does not insist it is without valuable potential contribution to patterns of human life that lie entirely beyond civilization. It does insist upon the abandonment of the fatal memes that Civilization is the greatest and final achievement of humanity and must not be lost or abandoned under any circumstances, and that Our way is the only right way to live, and all people should live as we do. There is nothing which may not profitably be lost or abandoned if it does not yield satisfactory results, and there is no one right way to do anything. Civilization has never yielded satisfactory results for any but the pharoahs, and is swiftly destroying the life-sustainability of the planet right now and, with or without humanity, cannot long endure.
- The solution for the human predicament is in the hands, individually, of the 6.5 thousand million contemporary human residents of the planet. Civilizations in the past have collapsed and died because their individual constituents at some point made the choice to cease supporting them, to abandon them, and to return to the tribal pattern of proven human effectiveness. This choice is no less available to contemporary humans, and is no less effective than it has ever been; yet it is a choice which, if it is made at all, must be made by individuals, and can neither be compelled nor prevented by others, including even armies of overwhelming strength.
- Because the solution for the human predicament is in the hands, individually, of the members of the human race, a graduated transition is possible between the collapse of contemporary civilization and the emergence of "post civilized" tribes. As spring weather dissolves the icy grip of winter, the landscape is transformed almost overnight from forbidding gray to rainbow-dappled shades of green, as literally billions of individual leaves and flower blossoms "decide" to open their protective coats and reach toward sunshine and warmth. The same principle applies to the billions of individual humans now resident upon the planet. A single green leaf does not by itself transform winter into spring, and a single individual human opting out of civilization does not complete the needed transition beyond civilization. Yet the entire global human population is composed of nothing but individual human decision-makers, and that has the potential to transform the Earth practicaly overnight.
- A post-civilized tribal pattern can emerge anywhere a group of cooperative individuals are able to combine their efforts in creation of a common, sustainable livelihood.6 It can be urban, suburban, or rural in setting, and can make use of any available technologies, materials, and combined know-how of the participants. Its only "practical requirements" are that the participants enjoy their several occupations, enjoy working together in each other's company, and that each participant, each member of the tribe, makes a contribution to the enterprise sufficient to render each an asset to the whole. During the early stages of transition to "post-civilization," a tribe may not be readily distinguished, externally, from a civilized commercial enterprise. The differences are in the relationships among members, which are not necessarily visible or obvious.7
- The good news is that "our culture," civilization, is only one among many human cultures that have ever been, are now, or might be. Although civilization has grown to embrace (imprison) with very few exceptions all contemporary residents of the planet, the fact that civilization doesn't work in no way implies that humanity doesn't work. This means that there really is "somewhere to go" beyond civilization – which is very good news indeed.8 Although Civilization doesn't work, and does not provide a solution for the human predicament, the tribe does work, and may provide such a solution, if working tribes appear in sufficient numbers and varieties to demonstrate their effectiveness. No single individual or tribe can assure this result, yet each individual and tribe that moves in any measure beyond civilization makes a substantial contribution to bringing this result into manifestation.
So, the questions tumble forward, practically without invitation: How is such a transition likely to proceed? How do we get "there" from "here?" How long is it likely to take? Can interim chaos and catastrophic destruction be avoided? ...and so on.
First, it should be clear that the transition beyond civilization is not, and need not be, instantaneous. "Overnight" is a metaphorical description, in relation to the probable time scale involved, and does not even require 100% participation, or anything close to it. There are 6.5 thousand million human residents on this planet, and that number is swiftly mounting, heavily weighted in the so-called "third world." Any "solution" that requires the specific monolithic participation of even a relatively small segment of this vast and highly diverse population is the stuff of dreams.
The transition beyond civilization will not be accomplished by any "mass of humanity" (which is at best an imaginary concept), but as all transitions have always been negotiated: by individuals making individual decisions. Every human on this planet makes whatever decisions they make every day, and takes whatever actions they decide to take. The only fraction of these exposed to your will and preference are the decisions and actions you make and take.9 If you decide and act with awareness and purposeful intent, it is sufficient. It must be sufficient, for if it is not, we're all doomed, end of story; and where's the advantage in believing that?
In order to negotiate successfully the transition from civilization to post-civilization, there are an unimaginable variety of vital changes that "must" be made – the vast majority of which neither you nor I are even dimly aware; or if aware, we are not positioned to act upon all of them effectively. Never mind. Someone is aware of them, and in a position to act, just as you are aware of certain elements and circumstances of which many others are oblivious. You may rely upon it that each of these vital matters is in the most appropriate possible hands, and is being dealt with in the most appropriate possible way. Especially is this so, if you are handling the particular matters in your awareness in the most appropriate possible way. That is, if you are making the best decisions, and taking the most appropriate actions within your best understanding, it is sufficient. Rely upon it.
Civilization could linger on for hundreds of years yet, in benign coexistence with a steadily growing multiplicity and variety of post-civilized tribes. What needs to happen to insure the survivability of the planet and the human race is not a stark binary "either / or" with no middle ground between civilization and post-civilization. Rather, what needs to happen, as suggested earlier,10 is the replacement of a fatal complex of memes that perpetuate civilization and consequently stifle the life-sustainability of the planet, with an alternative complex of memes that favor social evolution beyond civilization.
The planet, life, and humanity may even be able to sustain a limited number of pharoahs and pyramid builders in co-residence with a multiplicity of essentially unmolested tribes of rich and expanding variety. What we cannot sustain, or survive, is a global civilization posessed of the meme, Our way is the only right way to live, and all people should live as we do. This is a formula for human extinction. Either this meme and its corollaries, or we, must go.
So how do we secure "a multiplicity of essentially unmolested tribes" against the overwhelming might of our contemporary pharaohs?
This is already in the works, and has been so for at least the past generation. In Viet Nam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, our contemporary and recent pharaohs have been discovering for the past 40 years the penalties attached to attempts at imposing with "overwhelming force" their wills upon peoples with wills of their own. When people have had enough of the pharoahs, and their whips, and threats, and "sneers of cold command," there is simply nothing the pharoahs can do about it. Well... yes, they can exterminate large numbers of people; yet ultimately, they can exercise their tyrannies only over cooperatively compliant populations. Even in the "bad old days" of the USSR, the conscripted pyramid builders used to say, "They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work." And where is the USSR today? When individuals decide to "walk away," the pharoahs are left standing, in company only with the individuals who decide not to "walk away."
Meanwhile, it is becoming quite clear in the field that even "overwhelming force," which has always been the pharoahs' ultimate bulwark, is never as overwhelming in fact as its advertising claims, when opposed by individuals of determined intent. A mountain lion is overwhelmingly more ferocious, powerful, and lethal than any skunk; yet any skunk molested by a mountain lion will know what to do about it. I somehow think that mountain lions, for all their "overwhelming force," do not often molest skunks. Similarly, the pharoahs may be "getting it" by now that it is not profitable to conscript or attack individuals who are no longer willing to build their pyramids for them.
Tyranny is not now, and never has been, imposed only by force; it is always imposed primarily by memes. Defeat its memes with more persuasive, more true counter-memes, and tyranny cannot be sustained. This is how we secure a multiplicity of essentially unmolested tribes against the overwhelming might of our contemporary pharaohs.
Sure, the skeptic replies, tell that to the many peoples throughout history who have been conquered, subjugated, or annihilated by more powerful armies than their own!
Conquering an already conquered people is relatively easy, and has been accomplished routinely all over the world for the past ten thousand years, in practically every civilized generation. It is simply the substitution, by pre-emptive force, of one pharoah for another, and happens all the time. This is even what a so-called "election" is in a so-called "democracy": a disguised usurpation; the "orderly" substitution of one wielder of pre-emptive force for another. As long as people can be hoodwinked by such fraud, it will continue; but not longer.
As I have earlier remarked, "Actually, pre-emptive use of force is the defining mark of civilization! Think about it. 'Civilization' and 'savagery' are not opposites at all; they're virtually synonymous."11 Civilized peoples are conquered peoples, and civilization is tyranny. That's what they are, and that's what it is, and what it has always been; and I say again, tyranny is not now, and never has been, imposed only by force; it is always imposed primarily by memes.
Once an individual becomes conscious of his or her "ruling memes," it becomes possible to change those memes deliberately. Memes ordinarily reside below the level of conscious awareness where they are not subject to analysis, question, or doubt; wherein resides their awesom power. Yet they can be pointed out, as some of them have been here, and evaluated with deliberation, and changed, and replicated in resonant human minds. These are changes no one need attempt in relation to anyone other than oneself; yet one's self-analysis may be shared with others, as mine is here, and if it is sound, it may be replicated. This happens spontaneously, and doesn't have to be "pushed." When a slave discovers how to strike the fetters from his wrists, it shouldn't require a "sales campaign" to convince his fellow slaves to take advantage of his discovery.
Now; does it really make sense that
- Our way is the only right way to live, and all people should live as we do?
- Civilization is the greatest and final achievement of humanity?
- Civilization must not be lost or abandoned under any circumstances?
- Humanity was destined from our earliest beginnings to create civilization?
- The earth was created for humanity, and humanity was created to conquer and rule the earth?
Or might it be more sensible to create substitutions for these?12 I ask you. I'm not telling you anything. It's up to you, the very individual we're talking about here, to decide what or what not to "do about it."
Among the WingMakers' materials I have discovered the useful concept of the Sovereign Integral:
The Sovereign Integral is a state of consciousness whereby the entity and all of its various forms of expression and perception are integrated as a conscious wholeness. This is a state of consciousness that all entities are evolving towards, and at some point, each will reach a state of transformation that allows the entity and its instruments of experience (i.e., the human instrument) to become an integrated expression that is aligned and in harmony with Source Intelligence.13
"The Sovereign Integral is a state of consciousness...." That's what we're talking about here, isn't it? When you change your memes, you achieve an "altered state of consciousness" that is no longer amenable to the memes which form the bedrock of civilization; and you are then at liberty to explore and pioneer the terrain beyond civilization. What had been literally unthinkable before, suddenly becomes a simple matter of taking the next obvious step; nothing more, nothing less. It's a whole new ballgame now, the old game is over, and may be left behind without a backward glance.
What the WingMakers call the Sovereign Integral is an individual who has struck the fetters from his or her own mind, and is no longer shackled by the memes upon which the artificial slave-state civilization depend for its sustenance and perpetuation. Achieving the Sovereign Integral state of consciousness is an individual endeavor; yet it is a communicable process as well, for its essence may be deliberately shared among human minds. A group of humans who have achieved this state of consciousness are thereby equipped, if they so choose, to combine their efforts in a post-civilized tribe, thereby creating for themselves a means of livelihood that functions in a realm partially or entirely beyond civilization.
This process does not require anyone to "go to war" against civilization. Nor does it, to adapt an earlier remark,
...require "rocket science." We are not called upon to walk on water, or achieve some sublime state of metamystichood that utterly transcends "ordinary human experience." What you are, and what I am, just as we are, feet-on-the-ground, warts and all, are entirely adequate for making the choice, again, and again, and again, between [civilization and post-civilization; between slavery and the Sovereign Integral].14
Rather, civilization is hereby rendered irrelevant. We've seen civilization for what it is (those of us who have), have chosen otherwise, and simply "walk away" from it, as our ancestors have done so many times in the past. And like our pre-civilized tribal ancestors, we make innovative, creative use of whatever we find available and useful in our environment, if possible, in "an integrated expression that is aligned and in harmony with Source Intelligence." Some of what we find to work with may come from civilization (such as the Internet); some may occur "naturally;" and some we may invent, or create for ourselves.
This we can do, if we so choose, right here, right now, whoever, wherever we happen to be, without so much as a "by your leave" from anyone. We can do this because, contrary to the teaching of every civilized religion, as mentioned in "conviction 3," the human predicament is not about a flawed humanity. It's about an irreparably dysfunctional culture, "our culture," civilization. As mentioned in "conviction 10," "The good news is that 'our culture' ... is only one among many human cultures that have ever been, are now, or might be."
Earlier, I remarked that "like it or not, we don't have much of a choice in this matter; inasmuch as there is no convenient way ... for any of us simply to step off the planet, and go do something more to our liking somewhere else."15 No, we cannot "step off the planet." Yet we do have "somewhere else to go." We are not doomed, as we have been taught by our religions, by a flawed human nature. We are blighted by a single culture that doesn't work; yet we have in our human heritage the experience of countless human cultures that have worked, and do work very well. These are tribal cultures, and they give us prototypical models upon which to base our social evolution, right here, right now, beyond civilization.
Therefore, I repeat my recent call to action.16
If you resonate with this analysis, and it is your choice to do so, simply share the replacement memes17 with others in your circle. Obtain Daniel Quinn's books, and read them, and share them. Forward this essay, and its predecessors, and its sequels, with or without your own commentary and input. Share your insights and feedback with me, so I can share them in turn with readers of these essays, and they can (if they choose) pass them on in turn to others.
How about that?
1. See The Tribal Ideal.
2. Memes are discussed in Beyond Civilization or The Killer Meme.
3. Daniel Quinn, Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure, Three Rivers Press, New York, 1999. Note that there is reason to suspect an "advanced" human presence on this planet earlier than 10,000 years ago, as demonstrated, for instance, by Charles Hapgood, Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings, Chilton Books, Philadelphia and New York, 1966, Turnstone Books, London, 1979. Whether such "advanced" human presence took the form of hierarchical civilization, or some form of tribal culture, or something else, is impossible to say for sure, on the basis of extant evidence. In any event, the culture that accurately mapped the Earth more than 10,000 years ago had evidently disappeared before the appearance of the first civilization "known" by contemporary anthropologists and historians. If nothing else, this evidence underlines the fact that human events during the vast expanse of time prior to the little era our culture chauvinistically labels "history" is rich with entirely unknown content.
4. Daniel Quinn, The Story of B, Bantam Books, New York, Toronto, London, Sydney, Auckland, 1996, "The Boiling Frog," p. 267, "The Great Remembering," pp. 307-325. Note that the term "every civilized religion" applies only to those that fit the description. A reader of this essay challenged me on the point that the teaching of the Buddha, which has come to be known as "Buddhism," is much more a philosophical approach to the suffering, or dukkha, i.e. pain and dissatisfaction in life, than it is a "civilized religion" as described above – even though it made its appearance during "civilized times." The same allowance may be made for the teachings of Lao Tzu, known popularly as "Taoism," to which I happen to be partial. I suppose this is the "fatal flaw" in most sweeping, blanket statements: there always seem to be exceptions which spoil their "elegant simplicity." Anyway, "if the shoe fits...."
5. Quinn, 1999, p. 61, ff. See also Beyond Civilization or The Killer Meme
6. See Beyond Civilization or The Killer Meme for a discussion of what a tribe is, and examples of how a tribe can be organized. See Leavers and Takers for a proposed tribal livelihood.
7. See Daniel Quinn, 1999, p. 72; also quoted in Beyond Civilization or The Killer Meme.
8. Quinn, 1996, "The Collapse of Values," pp. 285-6.
9. You may take a part in the decisions of others only through the exercise of pre-emptive force, and this identifies you as most probably civilized and "part of the problem," not as post-civilized and "part of the solution." See "Dear Friends," 12/15/03, "Dear Friends," 2/15/04, Beyond Civilization or The Killer Meme, The Tribal Ideal, and below in this essay, for discussions of pre-emptive force.
10. In The Tribal Ideal. See also In the Hands of the Gods.
11. Beyond Civilization or The Killer Meme.
12. See note 10.
13. Glossary: WingMakers Philosophy. See also Source Intelligence, and The Genetic Mind.
14. See Civilization and Savagery. Note that this essay was written before I had comprehended the identity of civilization and savagery; so in this essay I was treating them erroneously as opposites.
15. In The Tribal Ideal.
16. In The Tribal Ideal.
17. See note 10.
"Toward the Sovereign Integral" copyright 2004 by J. Harmon Grahn. Copying and redistribution, in whole or in part, are permitted in any medium provided this notice is included.
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